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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 8, No. 11. August 8, 1945

University Research

University Research

The announcement in the papers of a publication entitled "Research and the University" seems to have occasioned another of those bursts of public interest in University affairs. This pamphlet, prepared by Professors Fordor, Allen, and Eccles, and Drs. Popper. Parton, and Packer, contains little with which anyone will disagree. In brief, they do not accept research and teaching as separate functions of a University teacher or student. In fact, what they are proposing is merely the application of the principles of the Reischel-Tate report of 1925, from which they quote the following: (1) "The proper inter action of teaching and research is of the very essence of the highest education'"; (2) "Teacher and student in a University should be engaged jointly in a voyage of discovery in search of truth"; and (3) 'A teacher of science who is himself untouched by the research spirit is…incapable of fulfilling the higher ideals of his position."

And the result, they say, is the loss to New Zealand of so many of its graduates. With all this students will agree, but this happy state represents an ideal, and to achieve it a complete reorganisation of the structure and syllabus of the University would become necessary. The present student is required to learn only specifically assigned sections of work as defined in the University calendar, and it is considered wasted effort to go beyond this. Hence the outlook will be mainly towards teaching, since that is what gets the degree.

Experimental training is in reality so weak that the difficulties of independent research only become evident on reaching honours standard, at a stage when they should have been put far behind. Nor can we expect the staff of the College to carry out investigations if they have to prepare for anything up to fifteen hours of lectures a week on a constantly developing subject, or organise and supervise laboratory classes for over two hundred students. Professor Florance, to whom we are indebted for our copy of "Research in the University," told us that during his period at Manchester, there were eight members on the lecturing staff of, the physics department for as many students as there are taking physics at Victoria College today.

To quote from the pamphlet: "There are certain basic requirements which must be fulfilled if the University is to play its proper role.…These are (1) the University must be supplied with adequate finance; (2) the academic staff must be large enough to ensure individual members sufficient freedom from teaching to undertake serious research…; (3) the provision of the necessary space…apparatus, and…assistance; (4) the provision of…periodical literature on a greatly increased scale; (5) a break with isolationist tendencies, that is, the recognition for the need for contact with colleagues within and without New Zealand by attendances at conferences, congresses, etc.; (6) the provision of means of publication of research by means of a University press; and (7) the recognition by controlling bodies that research activity should receive due reward in such matters as status and promotion."

We see, therefore, that the solution depends solely on finance. Graduates can hardly be expected to remain in a country where there is no recognition and repayment of their work. The arguments that there is no scientific tradition in the country, that the population does not warrant it, or that the staff are unable to cope with it, all reduce to this. The University of New Zealand has the reputation of being the leasr costly University in the world, and it is time we lost this pride of place.